Hacking HR to Create Adaptable Organizations

I’ve been following activity on the MIX Exchange: http://www.managementexchange.com/ for some time.  It is great to learn about ways in which practitioners are innovating 21st Century management practices.  When I saw the opportunity to hack HR, I was eager to jump in.

I have been working in the Human Resources space for many years in various capacities – as an external consultant and as an internal practitioner.  Sometimes my roles covered the range of HR disciplines and at other times they had a narrower/deeper focus.  In all cases, I saw the role of HR as one that aligned policies and practices with the execution of the business strategy.  That meant that the “nuts and bolts” – compensation, staffing, policies, benefits, etc. – had to make sense for the business and operate efficiently AND that HR could facilitate change in the business through leadership and team development, organization assessment and design, and talent management practices.

I have to say it frustrated me when the business needed HR assistance with organizational change and HR senior leaders focused resources, instead, on the execution of a one-time event that had no connection with business outcomes and no follow-through plans to sustain any benefits emerging from the event.

HR gets a bad name when it focuses on itself as a stand-alone function (implementing “best practices” identified through benchmarking or the shiny new thing) disconnected from the business and its market.  We all know the mantra: “If you want to be a business partner and have a seat at the table, you have to understand the business. “ HR gets a bad name when managers are frustrated with the “compliance” aspect of the function – on the one hand, they want to manage risk; on the other, they want to do so more nimbly.  (I’d like to see what ideas would come out of a “hack compliance” effort!)   So, I guess it is no great surprise that the most popular hack in the HR hackathon was the one suggesting to eliminate HR.

This Hackathon isn’t about hacking HR in general, though.   It is about fostering adaptable organizations – and HR’s role in making that happen.   So, the hackathon started with defining adaptability and identifying barriers and enablers of adaptability.  With this foundation, almost 140 different ideas for hacking HR were created, including mine – Mix It Up.  Contributions came in from around the world, and there are some pretty intriguing ideas.  It was fun coming up with ideas and reading and commenting on others.

Currently, I’m working with a global team of management and HR practitioners to further develop the Mix It Up hack — collaborating virtually via use of Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Hangouts.  We are creating a simple way for people to work temporarily in different areas — to learn about other parts of the company, use their skills and knowledge differently, and build the organizations “muscle” to adapt to change.